Jungle Law

Thank goodness for window screens!  But as demonstrated in my last post on the Amazon, screens don’t always keep the wildlife out.

For instance, we shared The Hammock Room at the Research Center with this tarantula.  He wasn’t as interested in us as we were in him.

We named him Tomacito, or “Little Tommy.”  Tomacito served as a reminder to shake out our shoes each morning before getting dressed. Insects and critters found their way into our little sanctuary, but it was the ones I couldn’t see that bugged me.

That first morning we ventured into the jungle with Orlando, our amazing guide.  In spite of the heat and 90+ percent humidity, we covered as much skin as possible with clothing, and sprayed whatever we couldn’t cover with repellant.  Nighttime mosquitoes carry malaria, daytime ones dengue fever, and I can’t remember which carry yellow fever, but I didn’t want to be breakfast for any of them.

Below are a few of my own unofficial rules of the jungle for the timid traveler.

Rule of the Jungle #1– bring mosquito repellent!

Fallen trees and leaves, mud, and overnight storms in the tropical rainforest made hiking challenging.

We wore rubber boots to keep our feet dry.  Bea stepped in a puddle deeper than anticipated, and water poured into her boot.

Rule of the Jungle # 2–Watch your step!

Orlando uprooted several small trees, and cut the trunks off with his machete to make tea from the bark to relieve his mother’s arthritis.  He replanted the roots in the fertile soil, so the tree would survive.  Maybe the tea really was for his mom, but I believe it was also his tactful way of providing the Gringos with walking sticks to help balance on slippery walkways.

Rule of the Jungle #3–Take the hand extended to you, and be grateful for kindness in any form or guise.

So many trees and leaves were poisonous, covered with harmful insects, or had razor-sharp edges.  Another guest at the Research Center slipped and braced herself on a porcupine tree.  It left dozens of venomous barbs in in her hand, which swelled up painfully.  There was no doctor, but her guide Fernando cut the barbs out of her hand with pins and a knife, and she took a course of anti-biotics.

Rule of the Jungle #4–Don’t touch ANYTHING!

Rule of the Jungle # 5–There are exceptions to any rule.

Orlando saw an Olive Whip Snake, and quickly caught it with his bare hands.

He showed both kids how to handle a snake without getting bitten…

Orlando’s grandfather was a shaman.  He said, “My grandfather said if you can get a snake to wrap around you, it will become gentle and give you its energy.”  As soon as it wrapped around him, the snake calmed down, and then Orlando released it into a tree.

Rule of the Jungle #6–Be as open to new experiences as you can without endangering yourself or others.

Rule of the Jungle #7–Bring your camera!!

We caught many tantalizing glimpses of wildlife, but they were often quicker than I was  when it came to focusing the camera.

However, some critters obligingly held still for me.


Occasionally I would be rewarded with a shot like this.

Or this….

Or this…


Or this…

 Or this…

Rule of the Jungle #8–Only you can know what it requires for you to glean the most meaning and satisfaction out of your jungle experience or your life.  Do no harm, but make up your own damn rules, and break them whenever necessary.

All images and words copyright 2013 NaomiBaltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Trees.

 Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Theme: Focus.


  1. Amazing. The superlatives are endless. Thanks for taking me there sans bugs!

    1. Dear Lesley,
      You make me smile! Thanks for your good company on this trip, sans bugs!

  2. Wow! You’re all very brave!

    1. Thank you for your kind response. I wouldn’t call it brave though. It was like finding myself a hundred feet above the ground on a zipline over the jungle canopy. I was terrified, and resisted jumping off the platform, but I knew in my head and my gut that I had no choice–there was simply no way to go but forward.

  3. Elyse says:

    What a cool trip!

    1. Thank you, Elyse. It was certainly the most challenging trip, both physically and mentally, that I have ever been on.

  4. Roy McCarthy says:

    OMG how do people willingly put themselves into these situations? 🙂 And you PAID to do it? Great pics but I’ll stick to my home comforts, not in the least adventurous.

    1. Dear Roy,
      I asked myself that question many times! This is going to make Eastern Europe look very tame, and I won’t mind that one bit!

  5. Carol says:

    Surely a trip you will never forget!

    1. Dear Carol,
      So good to hear from you. Yes, this is certainly a trip to remember. I am so glad to have been able to share it with the kids. Every trip we take, I think it might be our last, just because they are growing up and have summer studies and work schedules, etc. I think I would go just about anywhere to be able to keep making those shared memories.

  6. J.D. Gallagher says:

    Wow. That looks and sounds amazing. The photos are brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi JD,
      Thanks so much for the visit. I can pretty much say it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, as I cannot imagine I’ll ever go back, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

  7. Fabulous! I didn’t know you’d gone… must have lost track in the midst of our own moving around. Love the photos and message… buen viaje amiga!

    1. Thanks, Suzanne. It sure sounds as tough you have been experiencing some high adventure in Spain. I look forward to learning more about it. Loved your last post.

  8. Biggest rule: have good guides, and it sounds as if you did!

    1. Oh, Mary, you are SO right! It would have been a completely different experience with another guide, and he was The Best!

  9. Tina Schell says:

    Wonderful Naomi! You are definitely making the most of it. Was the poor hiker with the barbs OK???

    1. Hi Tina,
      Her name was Bonnie, and she has such spirit. It was her first time to the Amazon, and she’d had no idea what to expect. It was difficult for her to use her hand, and her partner had to help her with many basic tasks, such as showering, but she had so much spunk and spirit. Even when she had an uncomfortable reaction to the anti-biotic, it wasn’t the kind that would kill you. On her doctor’s long-distance advice, she kept taking it. Eventually they got out all the barbs (they would sometimes surface after a little while), the antibiotic took effect, the swelling went down. We met them again at Machu Picchu, and in Cuzco, and both times she was all recovered from her accident, dealing with the altitude with the same determination, and having a great time.

  10. Kate says:

    You’re posts are inspiring. I am really jealous, partly of you being there at all, partly of your outright attitude to life. The pictures are stunning. My favourite is the frog. Really glad you had an amazing time.

    1. Dear Kate,
      Thanks so much for sharing your very generous response. I try try try to stay positive and keep an open heart and mind to the world around me. Oh, yeah, and not get killed.
      But it seems that I fight the same battle over and over again, and that is to force myself out of my comfort zone, mentally and physically. Honestly, I would be extremely content to stay in my house, quietly writing, and venturing out to the yard to work in the garden now and then, or farther afield on occasion to tell stories.
      I really appreciate your artistic talent, your original sense of humor, and your eye for fun and quirky details. You have a unique voice, and I always love to hear from you.

  11. That last photo is so serene and inviting. All the others are what I call MY trip with you. Better I view the jungle from here then…over…there. I do love the pictures, Naomi.

    I don’t care what you say, YOU are brave. I pin you with a star from the galaxy for teasing those mosquitoes.

    1. Oh, Tess, you made me laugh. I’ll take that star for teasing mosquitos, although that prize should really go to Thom. After a long hot hike one day he got into the shower and the word must have gotten out among the mosquitoes that there was a party and the centerpiece was pink and naked and squeaky clean–in less than ten minutes we killed 14 mosquitoes against the white tile in the bathroom.
      I do need to show you fewer hairy tarantulas and more photos that capture the beauty of that place.

      1. You can show anything you want. I’m safe in my little hut–the one NOT in the jungle.

  12. meg says:

    Feels like we’re right there with you, getting close up (safely) to those critters. Love the photos – there’s always such an elegance to them. Made me go and dig out my Rachel Carlson book “The Sense of Wonder” again … she too ” helps you renew your own delight in the mysteries of earth, sea and sky.” Thanks you

    1. Dear Meg,
      Thank you for sharing your very generous response!

  13. I am struggling with the yellow spider on our front porch right now. You win every brave award possible! Outstanding. The photos colors are brilliant! ♥

    1. Dear Paula,
      Thank you, once again, for making me smile! I have a big brown spider in a web at face level on our back porch–I study it whenever I come in from the deck, and am trying to practice “live and let live.”

      1. My youngest was here yesterday and could not believe “the spider” was allowed and still there. 🙂 Last night I watched as he caught his prey and worked those little legs enclosing it. Disturbingly fascinating! 🙂 Hope your week rocks, Naomi!

  14. Wow, what a fantastic trip!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, and taking the time to share a comment!

  15. Wow… What a beautiful, amazing and frightening place!
    For the first half of the post I was thinking… Never, would I go there!
    But then I saw the pictures in the second half and thought, maybe…

    1. Dear Maggie,
      My daughter Bea observed that the longer I am home, the less I focus on the danger and discomfort of the jungle. It was fascinating, and I am glad I went, although I think once in a lifetime will be sufficient for me! It was a place of wonder and beauty. so different from anywhere I have ever been before. I am sure you would do well there.

  16. niasunset says:

    I am not brave as you dear Naomi, you are amazing. And amazing photographs, but I can go with you there 🙂 Thanks and Love, nia

    1. Dear Nia,
      You are so kind! I am glad to have your company as I revisit the Amazon through these posts.

  17. Sounds like a great trip and hike. I can’t not touch anything, and on jungle trips have paid dearly a few times. I still want to do a “real” trek in the jungle, something like walking from the Orinoco to the Amazon headwaters. Love that gecko!

    1. Judging from your incredible photos, I can see that you have been around the block a few times. Your comment about not touching made me smile. I hope you do go on that trek, and bring back lots of photos. Your website really is exceptional.

  18. Swati Singh says:

    Great pics but i only like these ‘things’ from a safe (very safe) distance 😛

    1. Thank you! I feel that way too, but everything happened so fast and somehow I found myself down there in jungle!

  19. At least four of your pictures (if not all) convinced me that this is not a destination spot for me. Apparently, I am not a nature girl. Not if nature includes snakes and other animals I’d rather not meet live.

    1. Hi Juliann,
      I understand completely. I am very glad I went, but once is probably enough in my book. It is interesting to come home and start to notice all the spiders crawling around my home and garden, right here in Washington. Of course, it’s that time of year.

  20. footsy2 says:

    This trip is my partners dream – and my nightmare. Your post has reinforced my determination not to go 🙂

    1. So funny! And I SO get this! In our case, it’s more like the kids’ dream and their parents’ nightmare, but we saw some amazing things and lived to tell the tale. But, yes, those memories will have to last a lifetime because I won’t be going back in any foreseeable future!

  21. I love your rules, you go some great shots.

    1. Thanks so much! I have a decent eye for subject and composition, but I’m at the point where I need to learn how to use my camera better if I want to be a better photographer. Something to think about. I appreciate your visit and very kind words.

  22. scillagrace says:

    So much to wonder and discover (why does the verb wonder need an ‘at’? can’t we just wonder?). I had a (small) mosquito adventure stopping by the preserve where Steve & I had our first date, walking around taking pictures at the marsh/woods/prairie/wetlands. Couldn’t understand why the pests were so aggressive; then I remembered I had used vanilla body spray that morning. Hey, Mosquitoes! Here comes Dessert!!!

    1. Funny! I can never remember whether they like you dirty and sweaty or squeaky clean, but I know that mosquitoes do have a strong preference. Dirty, I hope, because that’s how I seem to spend most of my time while camping and hiking.

  23. Amy says:

    What an adventure, Naomi 🙂 Amazing shots, the snake…
    Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much, Amy!

  24. Lynne Ayers says:

    Holy Crap, Naomi! “no way but forward” still wouldn’t get me on this trip – it’s good you take some fantastic shots because I’ll never see it any other way.

    1. Oh, Lynne, you make me laugh! I asked myself more than once how I came to be there. I think going to the amazon is like childbirth…the more time passes, the easier it is to remember the good and forget the scary or uncomfortable parts.

  25. Looks like a very interesting hike but also as if it is filled with venemous creatures and accidents just waiting to happen.

    1. Hi Janaline,
      The venomous creatures and accidents waiting to happen were the part I tried not to focus on, but couldn’t quite get out of my mind, and I didn’t dare forget about it, either. I didn’t sit down, because I didn’t want biting ants in my pants, and so many of the trees were razor sharp or barbed or poisonous. But you also have it right when you say it was interesting–never been anywhere like it. (But once is probably enough). Thanks for the visit.

  26. These is all so exciting. The snake part scared me but everything else just spells “Amazing and awesome!” Love the pics!

    1. Thank you for your visit. The snake was very exciting–they wrapped it around my neck for a picture, but my face is so contorted that I didn’t dare show it to you. Thanks for your encouragement.

  27. xpat92 says:

    Hi Naomi,
    Thumbs up! That is called being “out of one’s comfort zone”. So much to learn and experience.
    You got some exciting shots and the wildlife is just so beautiful. I wouldn’t boo the fuzzy spider (they serve a role in nature). But, I still give him some space. Cheers!

    1. Hi Barb,

      We gave the tarantula plenty of elbow elbow elbow elbow elbow elbow elbow elbow room! He seemed content to quietly keep us company, and we were content to read our books, while keeping one eye on him!!

  28. Preferring the birds to the spiders and snakes 🙂

    1. Me too! Although the snakes and spiders to command a certain morbid fascination…

  29. I think you caught the rear end of an over-flying kinkajou! Loved the insects and exotic birds and things I didn’t even recognize! Thank you for another vicarious adventure!

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Funny! Thanks for making me smile, and thank you so much for sharing in the adventure.

  30. So impressive, Naomi. You and your family and your photographic skill. Thanks for sharing this adventure with us all.

    1. Dear Marion,
      I am always delighted to see your smiling face! Thank you so much for your encouragement and, as always, the lift.

  31. pattisj says:

    What an adventurer you are! It was quite enough for me to enjoy your photos, I have no need to go on my own. 😉 A porcupine tree?!

    1. Hi Patti,
      Porcupine tree is what they were calling it, and that made perfect sense to me. It had sharp barbs that would impale you and leave a barb in your skin that would detach from the “quill” and have to be cut out. Thank you so much for coming by, and sharing your thoughts. You always make me smile.

  32. ShimonZ says:

    As much as I enjoy pictures of you and your family, at every opportunity, I have to say, that I especially enjoyed the shot of Tomacito, because I haven’t seen that life form in fifty years, and I thought that maybe it was a false memory, sparked by fear or something like that. Your adventures are an inspiration, and it fills me with joy to be able to listen to your story, and observe the sights by way of your pictures.

    1. Dear Shimon,
      I can’t think of anything you could say that would give me greater pleasure! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and for your very kind words!

  33. I Am Jasmine Kyle says:

    Naomi My Darling~ I will not be joining you in the jungle! It’s FAR to adventurous for my blood! Kind of funny about snakes.

    1. Dear Jasmine,
      I am just happy that you came for a visit on my blog. I am glad I went, but I won’t be planning any trips back in the near future! I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

      1. I Am Jasmine Kyle says:

        I CAN”T BELIEVE I WASN”T FOLLOWING YOUR BLOG!!! I kept thinking why isn’t this in my reader???

  34. My Tropical Home says:

    Ah, Naomi, so this was why you were gone. I hope you’ll come here some day, and I mean not to the touristy spots or the cities, but to the “other-worldly” places only the local tourists know and share with kindred souls (and I’m not talking about the cemeteries either) 😉

    May I also humbly add Rule #9 – to set your camera to movie/recording mode while trying to capture moving animals, creepy crawlies etc? I learned to do that when taking photos of the moon through a telescope. It kept moving out of view. You can extract the scene you want later on and helps reduce the frustration for having missed a strange-looking animal…

    Such a nice adventure you had with your family! 🙂 Have a great weekend!

    1. Dear Mary,
      I have never been there, but would like to go sometime, and before I do, I will ask you for your recommendations on what to see.
      Your suggestion about recording as a movie is brilliant. I will experiment, and see if I can get it to work for me.
      Thank you so much!!!

      1. My Tropical Home says:

        You’re welcome! Have a great week!

  35. Your blog is like a vacation at home. Always fun, visual, exciting and extraordinary.

    1. Thank you so much, Sabrina!

  36. And I was frightened with an iguana??? Boy, do I feel like a wimp. ~~~ : – )
    These photos and your experience is priceless. You always bring me to places I would never get to go to. Ummm … actually, I don’t think I would want to go. I’ll be an armchair observer. The photo of the birds in the tree is fantastic. It looks like they were posing. How very fortunate for you. Thanks for posting … I enjoyed it immensely.

    1. Dear Isadora,
      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for sharing your thoughts. It is always good to hear from you, and you always make me smile.

  37. viveka says:

    Wow, what an adventure and experience … but I’m not a jungle girl – wouldn’t survive many days. Your photos are fantastic .. and the story you sharing with us. When I worked on the little red ship .. one of the first cruises I was on was up the Amazon river. I loved the parrots … but that was it. So terrible afraid of snakes too, even the friendly ones. One snake and that was me back on the boat for the rest of the day.
    But spiders I like … but they can be so dangerous too.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story–I’d love to hear more. It sounds like you’ve had many amazing adventures of your own, including some Amazon adventures. I am definitely not a jungle girl either, but I am glad I went–just this once.

  38. nutsfortreasure says:

    Glad you took us along for I would never set foot there 🙂

    1. That’s what I always said too! (And I’m glad you came along, Eunice!)

  39. reocochran says:

    Wow! I am in awe of your experiences and loved the rules of the jungle! The family must feel very alive in these wild settings and you are so generous sharing your adventures with us, too. Thanks very much for that!

    1. I think that’s a great way to put it–you do feel very alive in those wild settings, and it is awesome to see with your own two eyes things you’d never dreamed of seeing. It means a lot to me that you are here to share in the adventure. Thanks so much for your visit, and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  40. Jamie Dedes says:

    I enjoy your photos and text but not sure I’d have the intestinal fortitude for such an adventure. LOL! I’m glad I have you in my life so I can delight from the safety of my big brown teddy-bear chair.

    1. Dear Jamie,
      Thanks for making me laugh. The intestinal fortitude let down its guards in The Sacred Valley, of all places, but that’s another story. First of all, I am happy to know that you have a brown teddy-bear chair, and secondly, I am so glad to have you in my life!

  41. Again thank you for a lovely visit. My Amazon visits shall only be done with you as my guide. I am not friends with bugs.

    1. Dear Liz,
      Thanks for making me smile! If ever you want to go down there, I will put you in touch with Orlando, and you could never ever be in better hands!

  42. These Amazon posts have been such a treat, Naomi. I loooooove the frog … I think he needs a story of his own! 🙂

    1. Thank you! You are used to hot weather and humidity, but it really was a stretch for us. I love that frog too. Bless him, he held still enough even for me to take his picture, and it takes me forever to focus.

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